This time of year, during these final weeks before college football teams begin their workouts to prepare for the season, top players are added to watch lists for national awards focused on their performance on the field.
But for three former South Florida high-school standouts, recognition is also coming for what they have done off the field.
Florida State defensive lineman Fredrick Jones (Miami Central High alumnus), Miami (Ohio) wide receiver James Gardner (Fort Lauderdale High), and Alabama State offensive lineman Carl Thompson (Miami Jackson) are among 169 nominees for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. The award honors players who “not only demonstrate a unique dedication to community service and desire to make a positive impact on the lives around them, but they also show tremendous perseverance as well as the ability to overcome personal struggles and come out victorious against all odds.”
Jones, a redshirt senior at Florida State, led the FSU team in volunteer hours last season. He volunteers weekly at Grace Mission Episcopal Church and also serves as a mentor at elementary schools in Leon County. On the field, he has played in 36 games for the Seminoles, recording 41 tackles.
Gardner, a senior at Miami (Ohio), spends his time away from the gridiron volunteering at elementary schools, working with the Kiwanis Club and helping food pantries. On the field, the wide receiver has played in 30 games with 18 starts, catching 95 passes for 1,749 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was also named to the watch list for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which honors the best college-football receiver.
Thompson, a junior at Alabama State, has spent time reading to students at elementary and middle schools, volunteering at a homeless shelter, and organizing nine community-service teams — a number symbolic of the Marion Nine who founded Alabama State University. Thompson started nine games last season for the Hornets.
The list will be narrowed down to 22 players in September, 11 from the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision level and 11 more total from the Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III, and NAIA.